Ocean City Today

County schedules public hearings for enterprise funds

Water/sewer, solid waste, liquor support themselves
By Brian Gilliland | May 03, 2018
Photo by: File photo Jessica Wilson, enterprise fund controller

(May 4, 2018) Along with taxpayer-funded services, Worcester County government manages three “Enterprise Funds,” which are intended to support themselves through user fees, among other mechanisms, and the budgets for these funds will be subject to public hearing on June 5.

The fiscal 2019 budget is expected to be adopted that same day.

Worcester County operates these separate funds for water and wastewater, solid waste, and liquor control, though the sitting board of commissioners only really intended to be running two by this point in their terms — the board voted to dissolve the liquor control department in late 2015, with retails sales ending after summer 2016 and wholesale operations ending in July 2017.

However, a legal challenge continues to delay the formal exit of the county from the business, as the case has progressed from the Circuit Court to Maryland’s highest court, the Court of Special Appeals.

To keep the lights on during the legal wrangling, County Treasurer Phil Thompson was forced to devise a makeshift budget of about $1 million, which has been reduced to $915,000 for fiscal 2019.

The proposed cuts include inventory, supplies and interfund charges, while personnel and maintenance costs are expected to increase. Interfund charges are generally surpluses of profits that can be loaned out between enterprise funds to cover shortfalls.

In this regard, the Liquor Control Department was something of a moneymaker for Worcester County, using gains from wholesale and retail operations to subsidize losses in other areas, like solid waste.

The Solid Waste Enterprise Fund includes three transfers from other funds this year, including from two sections of the general fund and one from reserves, totaling about $1.9 million, which is about $350,000 more than last year.

Tipping fee and permit revenues are expected to drop more than $200,000 this year for the solid waste division, and personnel expenses are expected to increase in a total requested budget of about $6 million, a two percent increase over last year.

The water and sewer fund is somewhat harder to pinpoint, because it’s composed of funds from 11 separate service areas, each with its own demands, surpluses and shortfalls.

No usage fees have been proposed to increase, but prices on things such as base fees and flat charges have increased nearly across the board.

The commissioners are expected to adopt the budgets at the conclusion of the public hearings.


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